This meal really is a joy to prepare and to eat. It’s so flavorful and healthy that I bet you’ll be making these savory little meatballs and colorful salad again and again (putting your own unique spin on it, of course).

The meatballs, which remind me of the stuffing of a pork dumpling with the plus of a browned exterior, can be assembled and then frozen for busy weeknights. They make a perfect appetizer, or go ahead and double the recipe for a decidedly different main dish. You’ll want to double the amount of sauce as well, especially if you want plenty to drizzle over rice or soba noodles.

If you want to be really fancy, you can arrange those nuggets of goodness in a decorative circle around the salad. The two recipes, with their bright Asian flavors, work really well together.

And even if you eat a lot of meatballs, there’s still room for these itty-bitty Key lime desserts. This is the time of year I used to go to Florida and while there, I always had a slice of Key lime pie with my afternoon tea every day. I discovered quite by accident that they are the ideal sweet bite to close out this meal.

And yes, it’s perfectly fine to use bottled key lime juice. It’s in the alcoholic beverage aisle of the grocery store and is good to keep on hand in case you become addicted to this dessert like I have.

Gingery Pork Meatballs

1 lb. ground pork and/or ground turkey

1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

1/4 cup scallions, finely chopped

1 jalapeno or other hot pepper, finely chopped

2 tbsps. ginger, minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

Zest of 1 lime, grated

2 tsps. lime juice

2 tsps. soy sauce

1 tsp. Asian fish sauce

1/4 tsp. salt

1 tbsp. olive oil

Sauce:

3 tbsp. rice vinegar

2 tbsp. soy sauce

1 tbsp. Sriracha sauce

2 tsps. toasted sesame oil

1 tsp. brown sugar

Combine sauce ingredients and chill.

Combine ground meat with all ingredients and roll into 1-inch balls. Spray a large skillet with olive oil and sauté meatballs, browning on all sides then simmering with the cover on until cooked through. Serve with sauce. Yield: 4 servings

Korean Noodle Salad

10-12 oz. soba noodles or angel hair pasta, cooked according to package instructions and drained

2 carrots, cut into matchsticks

1 English cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into matchsticks

3 scallions, sliced thinly on the diagonal

2 cups red cabbage, thinly shredded

4 radishes, thinly sliced

1/2 cup fresh cilantro, torn

1/4 cup mint leaves, torn

1/2 cup roasted, unsalted cashews

Dressing:

4 tbsps. Korean Gochujang (sweet red chili paste) or see substitution below*

4 tbsps. rice vinegar

2 tbsps. honey

2 tbsps. sesame oil

2 tbsps. brown sugar

2 tbsps. soy sauce

*Gochujang substitute:

1 tbsp. smoked paprika

1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

2 tsps. Sriracha sauce

1 garlic clove, minced

5 tsps. corn syrup

1 tsp. miso paste

1 tbsp. water

1/2 tsp. salt

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.

Make the dressing and set aside to allow the flavors to meld. Cut vegetables and place in a large bowl. Cook the noodles and allow to cool. Place on individual plates and drizzle with dressing. Arrange vegetables and herbs on top, drizzle with more dressing and garnish with cashews. Yield: 6 servings

A Taste of the Keys

Juice of 3-4 key limes

1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, softened

1 tbsp. butter, melted

4 graham crackers, crushed into crumbs

1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk

Whipped cream for serving

Key lime wedges for garnish

In a stand mixer bowl, beat cream cheese on high until smooth. Reduce speed to low and slowly pour in sweetened condensed milk, beating on low speed until completely incorporated. Add lime juice and beat until blended.

In a separate bowl, drizzle melted butter into cracker crumbs and mix gently. Add a layer of crumbs to the bottom of each of 6 small dessert glasses, spoon key lime mixture on top, and repeat layers. Top with whipped cream and a lime wedge. Yield: 6 servings

Karen Schneider cooks and writes in the village of Cundy’s Harbor. You can reach her at [email protected].

Embrace spring with this light and tasty meal.

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